The film is near ending, and you feel you’ve experienced everything with Andy, from the harsh realities of prison life, to… the even more harsh realities of prison life. He’s tried so hard just to survive, and now that he’s made it out, you’re almost overjoyed for him. Almost. There’s just one thing missing. His best friend. In a film that is all about platonic love and retribution, everything comes together gorgeously in a brief, sweeping shot where our leads our reunited. World wise smarts, stunning cinematography and life-affirming performances make a great film; this ending makes it a masterpiece.
02. The cuddle by the fire. (Brokeback Mountain)
In a flashback of Jack’s, when he remembers the better times, he’s napping by the fire, when the love of his life, Ennis Del Mar, Romeo to his Juliet and his raison d’etre, sneaks up behind up him in an intense embrace. Jack responds lazily, and the love felt by the audience, enhanced by the duo’s excellent chemistry in this scene is simply mesmerising. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Gyllenhaal’s on screen, but this scene confirms Brokeback Mountain’s intentions of doing more than just getting two actors to lock lips. As this film proves, sometimes it’s a hug that is far more satisfying. It can only be true love.
03. Chalks. (Not one Less)
In Yimou Zhang’s minor masterpiece, Minzhi Wei is a 13-year-old girl trying to hold onto her class for the sake of a few measly bucks. She’s had a rough ride, and in order to get one of her students back, she’s pestered others for money, hauled bricks, and gotten lost. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of chalks and other forms of stationary. In this film, one of the students mourns over the stub of one chalk, and now, there is more than enough for all of them. It’s a simple act of kindness, but watching the effect is both heart-warming and humbling. Much like the film.
04. Antoine’s escape. (The 400 Blows)
Antoine Doinel has never had it easy. Just because he was a little mischievous and had a penchant for bunking off (and let’s face it, who hasn’t?), he’s been shipped off to the naughty boy’s school. Is he going to stay there? Well, we know Antoine, and we know the answer – Hell no! As he runs for France, the camera follows, and so do our hopes. Escape! we urge him. Whether or not he does is left to interpretation of that ambiguous, elliptical shot, and all the better for it.
05. Thomas Sangster’s airport run. (Love Actually)
Although not a great movie, Love Actually often features flashes of brilliance. The most brilliant of all is the airport/proposal sequence, in which, simultaneously, two neurotic, bumbling men pursue the love of their lives. One is about 10 years old, in love with an American classmate, and the other is about 40, in love with a Portuguese waitress. It’s Working Title, so you know what’s going to happen, but the sheer buzz of watching this scene, aided with Craig Armstrong’s excellent music makes you all warm and fuzzy inside.
06. Behind the poster. (The Shawshank Redemption)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Andy Dufresne cannot put up with it any longer. Having worked in Shawshank for nearly 20 years, he decides its time for goodbyes. Only, we don’t know this just yet. As the Raquel poster is torn from the wall and we see the hole, strings resonate music genius, and we see Andy’s masterful escape. Sweet, sweet, redemption. Or, in this case, sewage-smelling redemption, but redemption nonetheless.
07. “Wise up.” (Magnolia)
People are not all the same, and we don’t get judged by what we do. It’s a moody moment as everyone takes the time to contemplate their questionable lives, and the acting – from Julianne Moore’s mercenary wife realising that she truly is in love, to Melora Walters, facing the disillusions, to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s caring as the sensitive nurse, all listening to Aimee Mann’s melancholy tune “Wise Up.” As the scene progresses and everyone starts singing along, you realise that perhaps these people are not so disparate to each other, or, to us - We all need to wise up.
08. “At last, I’m coming home!” (Dirty Pretty Things)
This scene must be one of the briefest to make me cry, but why it really hurt was the overture leading up to it, in this case, it is the entire film. Okwe, for the sake of his friend Senay’s happiness, has denied feelings towards her, and she, for the sake of her chastity, has denied hers for his. And look where it’s got them. Dirty Pretty Things does not shy away from the dark side, unafraid to make you think, “Wow, life can be pretty shit” and you predict it’s going to all spiral into despair. But not quite. As Okwe phones his daughter, his voice cracks, and tears come to my eyes. Perhaps there is some justice in the world, after all.
09. Adam Sandler’s punch-drunk revenge. (Punch-Drunk Love)
In another P.T. Anderson picture, Punch-Drunk Love, a quirky rom-com with an astonishing performance from Sandler impressed in other ways too. His character, Barry, is a bit on the weird side, true, collecting pudding coupons and calling up chat-up lines. But all of this was because he was lonely, and, in the scene where he realises that he won’t be bullied anymore, it’s Emily Watson he sticks up for as well as himself. Darkly funny, this is a scene that blends affection and crowbars, which is something I certainly couldn’t do.
10. O-Ren’s entrance. (Kill Bill: Vol. 1)
Always one for memorable entrances, Lucy Liu’s introduction in Kill Bill counts as one of the best of all time, the very epitome of cool, post-modern reserve. As she walks in to the tune of Tomoyasu Hotei’s iconic tune “Battle without Honour or Humanity” in three distinctive shots. Whether it’s the music, or the editing, or the facial expressions, or something else, it all comes together exceptionally. It’s not a scene that offers much insight to the characters or the story, but who cares? It’s bloody cool.
Now, what are yours?